World War Two:
The home front

In this activity you we learn all about life on the home front during WWII. The activities on this page can be completed on their own, our in conjunction with our WWII loan box which contains some of the artifacts you will look at during this session. 

To book the loan box please enquire below. 

Introduction

In1939, Britain entered into what would become the world’s most devastating war to date. The war was between two groups of countries, one one side the “Allies”  Britain, France, Russia, China and the United States and the  other side the "Axis", Germany, Italy and Japan. Some countries remained ‘neutral’ in World War 2 including Spain, Sweden and Switzerland – this means they chose not to join either side.

The war lasted until  1945. In 1945 an Allied army crossed from Britain to free France from Nazi rule. A year later, Allied armies invaded Germany, forcing the Germans to surrender. After nuclear attacks on Japan’s major cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan also surrendered to Allied forces in August the same year. World War 2 had ended.

In this session you will be learning about the home front, although it was the men who went off to fight the war, the people left behind at home also had a part to play in the war. The Home Front is the name given to the effect of the war on people’s everyday lives.

Task One: New vocabulary 

Look at the pictures and information below. Each describes an important aspect of life on the home front. Some of the words might be new to you.

ARP warden

Someone of any gender who supervised the blackout when the bombs started to drop on cities and towns. They patrolled the streets to ensure no light was seen from windows, if light was seen they would alert people to "put that light out" "cover that window". They also reported the extent of the bomb damage and the local need for emergency services, handed out gas masks and Andersson/Morrison shelters. 1.4 million people were ARP wardens, most of whom were volunteers with day jobs.

Spies

Spies were used to get information from the enemy side. The British secret service was called MI5 and produced a lot of good spies, and also created double crossing spies (German spies who were spying on the English, now telling the German secrets to the English)

Home Guard

In May 1940 the Germans attacked Belgium and the Netherlands using parachutes, so people feared Britain would be invaded by air as well. The LDV (local defence volunteers) was set up. The government made a radio appeal to men aged 17-65 who weren’t serving, to become part time soldiers (LDV). Within 24 hours, a quarter of a million had joined and by the end of July it was over a million. They were given military style training, but because all the guns were being used to fight overseas, the public were asked to hand pistols in, and over 20,000 were handed in. By the end of 1940, the name was changed from Local Defence Volunteers to the Home Guard.

Factory workers

These were mainly women, who would work in munitions factories, making planes, tanks, bullets, guns and similar essential war items. They worked long sweaty hours in hot and cramped conditions, but their work was also vital to the the soldiers on the front line.
 

Land army

Before the war, even after the suffragette movement, women were expected to be housewives or do 'female jobs' such as nursing, shop assistants or domestic servants. But in March 1941, women were called up for work such as ambulance drivers, nurses, firefighters, factory work, ARP wardens, spies and working on the land. 80,000 joined the ‘land army’. These women would farm and grow crops and animals to keep Britain from going hungry. They worked long hours in all weathers, in order to produce the food that was needed. By 1943, 90% of unmarried women and 80% of married women were working in factories or on the land, even though it wasn’t compulsory.

Emergency services

Ambulance drivers and firefighters were mainly women, and would help put out blitz fires, help injured people escape from the rubble of houses and also work on the front line helping wounded soldiers. They were extremely important to the the war effort, and helped save thousands of lives.

Objects in Focus: The ARP

After World War One, it was feared that in any future war there would be large-scale bombing of the British civilians. In April 1937, an Air Raid Wardens' Service was created. By the outbreak of WW2 there were more than 1.5 million in the ARP (Air Raid Precautions), or Civil Defence as it was later re-named.

The most noticeable members of the ARP to civilians were the air raid wardens. ARP wardens were usually local. It was important that he or she knew their area and the people living there. At the outbreak of the war the main duties of the ARP wardens were to register everyone in their sector and enforce the blackout. This meant making sure that no lights were visible which could be used by enemy planes to help locate bombing targets

Look at the videos and pictures of the objects below. See if you can answer the questions by using the evidence that you can see. Answer all of your questions with what you think and explain why. 

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Object One: ARP helmet

Air raid wardens were issued with steel helmets. These helmets were like the steel helmets issued to soldiers in the First World War and protected the wearer from falling shrapnel or debris.

Questions

Do you think the helmet looks comfortable? Would you like to wear it for a long time?

Do you think it would provide good protection from shrapnel or falling objects?

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Object two: Gas Rattle

This is a gas rattle. It is a hand-held noisemaking device used to give warning of a gas attack or during gas mask drill. By holding the handle and spinning the rattle around it, the rattle makes a distinctive clicking noise. The ‘all clear’ signal would be given by ringing a hand bell.

Questions

Watch the video of the gas rattle working with the sound up. Do you think it would have worked well as a warning of an attack?

How do you think it would have felt to hear it sound?

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Object Three: Copy of a poster recruiting people as Air Raid Precautions (ARP) wardens

A number of recruitment posters were published pre-war and during the war seeking people to join the Wardens' Service.

Questions

Do you think ARP wardens were important to the war effort?

Would this poster have influenced you to join?

Objects in Focus: Food Rationing

 

At the beginning of the Second World War, Britain imported 60% of its food. With the shortage of food during the First World War still fresh in the memory, the government introduced the food rationing scheme in January 1940.

QUESTION: How do you think rationing helped the war effort?

Look at the videos and pictures of the objects below. See if you can answer the questions by using the evidence that you can see. Answer all of your questions with what you think and explain why. 

Ration Books

Every man, woman and child received a ration book and each home had to register with a local butcher, grocer and milkman, who received enough food for their registered customers. The first foods to be rationed were butter, sugar, bacon and ham. Over a period of time, more food was added to the system, and the rationed amount varied from month to month dependent on the availability of different foods. The amount of sugar and so sweets which you were allowed fluctuated during the war, ranging from 16oz a month down to 8oz (227g) a month. This is just one large bar or chocolate, and that wouldn't have left any sugar over for anything else. 

Questions

Question: do you think this would be enough food for you? 

Do you think living on rations would be difficult?

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